“The lamps are going out all over Europe.”
– Edward Grey, August 1914.
One hundred years ago today Britain declared war on Germany and The Great War began. Civilians became heroes and signed up for service in the droves, driven by patriotism and assured that it would be over by Christmas. But it didn’t end until 11th November 1918 – more than four years of battle like never before; families, streets, colleagues wiped out together on foreign battlefields; the average survival of a private: 11 days. Ten million military personnel and seven million civilians died across both sides of the conflict.
And we’re urged to never forget those who died, those who survived, those whose lives were blown apart by the decisions of men around various tables.
And yet I did forget. I studied the origins of First World War as part of my university degree…and I remember nothing. I got good grades for my essay and exam too. But looking back through my notes this evening it could have been another person who took the course.
I feel awful.
But I’ve been touched tonight, not so much by the televised service from
Westminster Abbey, but by the stories of the ordinary people (now all gone) who gave up so much. Their experiences, their relationships, all that they saw and how the world changed because of them. I feel humbled.
And so I will strive to remember. I may not be so great with the dates and the facts and how events escalated so quickly. But I will strive to remember those stories and continue to pass our gratitude down to future generations.
Lest we forget.